There’s no doubt that the way we’ve used our phones in the past few years has changed drastically. Ever since streaming giants Netflix and Stan launched in Australia back in 2015 — alongside the technology to support it — streaming videos on our phone is becoming more and more common.
The only downside is that streaming video can really chew through your plan’s data allowance. One hour of video streaming in standard definition uses around 1GB of data, while one hour of high-definition streaming will use about 3GB. If you’re watching videos daily using your mobile data, it’s not surprising to see that you could use up your monthly data fairly quickly.
So what’s the solution? The good news is that telcos keep increasing data inclusions on plans. So, while a few years back you would have to hop on an expensive plan for the luxury of 10GB of data, its now easier to come across this amount, and more, at much more affordable prices. Not only that but some telcos offer data-free streaming of certain services, like video and music, or ‘unlimited’ data plans so you can enjoy catching up on your favourite show without the worry.
Data-free music and video streaming
Some telcos offer entertainment extras, such as data-free streaming of certain services as added bonuses to entice you over. While Telstra, Optus and Vodafone are the main players which tend to offer these extras, some mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), like Boost Mobile, also include these extras. What’s on offer does vary from telco to telco.
Telstra, while generally on the pricier end of the plan spectrum, offers a few extras across plans that might be worth the bigger bill depending on your phone plan needs. You can expect data-free streaming of Apple Music on your Telstra postpaid phone plan, and if you already have a subscription to Apple Music (or have been thinking about signing up), this could be a big draw card.
Vodafone doesn’t include data-free streaming extras built into your plan cost, however these are available as add-ons for select plans (postpaid mobile and mobile broadband for tablet devices). These add-ons, known as Vodafone Passes, start at $5 for the Chat Pass (WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger), $10 for the Social Pass (Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and Pinterest), $10 for the Music Pass (Spotify, Soundcloud, Amazon Music, Deezer and Tidal) and $15 for the Video Pass (Netflix, Stan and Amazon Prime Video). There is a big catch though — these passes only allow you to use the apps specified on the plan at the capped speed of 1.5Mbps. Considering Vodafone offers unlimited capped-speed data on all postpaid plans (with some of these speeds being fast enough for Standard Definition video streaming), you might not need a Vodafone Pass anyway if you’re signing up to a postpaid plan, especially considering the Vodafone passes are only at capped speeds anyway.
Best of the rest
Boost Mobile, like Telstra, also includes data-free Apple Music streaming, making Boost the only MVNO to offer some kind of data-free streaming.
Optus offers a few data-free streaming extras. On its prepaid ‘Epic Data’ plans, it offers up to 10GB of ‘streaming data’ in addition to the general data inclusion, for use with Netflix, Stan and ABC Kids. Optus also includes data-free streaming of Optus sport (with access to many of the major European football competitions).
There’s no doubt that data-free extras are very enticing incentives for joining up to certain plans, even when these extras may have restrictions, such as a limit to only streaming in Standard Definition. While Telstra, Optus and Vodafone are generally more expensive plans than what many MVNOs offer, these perks can account for the price difference, especially if you know you’ll actually use them.
Some telcos may even include free subscriptions to the likes of Netflix, Stan BINGE, and Amazon Prime Video for a set time, or data-free streaming as bonus offers from time to time. As always, when comparing a phone plan, take these into consideration and have a look at what is on offer – you might be able to pick up a great deal if you sign up at the right time.
Video streaming on phone plan with unlimited data
If you do use a lot of data for video streaming, another alternative is to find a plan with ‘unlimited data’. The only catch is that this unlimited data is generally at capped speeds, starting at 1.5Mbps with Telstra, which kicks in once you’ve used up your fast-speed data inclusion. Vodafone offers this on all it’s month-to-month postpaid plans, including plans that are bundled with a new device. As for fast-speed data inclusions, the $40 will get you 10GB (2Mbps capped speeds) the $45 includes 30GB (2Mbps capped speeds), the $55 plan has 60GB (10Mbps capped speeds), the $65 plan has 100GB (10Mbps capped speeds) and for $120 you’ll get 150GB of data (25Mbps capped speeds). Once you’ve used up your fast-speed data inclusions, you will be able to continue using your data but at the capped speed offered on your plan.
While Telstra had previously offered the only phone plan with unlimited fast-speed data, this plan has been scrapped by the telco in favour of a simpler suite of postpaid plans (with data ranging from 40GB to 180GB), which all come with no excess data charges. These plans include some fairly generous data inclusions to start with, and once you’ve used up your included gigabytes, you’ll be able to continue using data but at the capped speed of 1.5Mbps.
Optus was the last telco to jump on the ‘unlimited data’ bandwagon, and like Telstra, offers its unlimited data at the capped speed of 1.5Mbps. This unlimited data is available on all Optus postpaid plans with fast-speed data starting at 10GB and going up to a huge 500GB.
Telstra, Optus and Vodafone offer plans with over 100GB of data per month, and if you only stream one hour of video per day (in standard or even high definition), this fast-speed data might still be enough for you. Take a look at how much data you currently use, and how much you think you would use realistically.
Big data iPhone plans
Looking for a iPhone 12 to combine with any of the above mentioned plans, which include generous data inclusions and even ‘unlimited’ data? The following table shows a range of 64GB iPhone 12 plans from Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, smallest to largest. This is a selection of products including links to our referral partners.
If your current plan doesn’t include enough data for your needs and you find yourself restricting your usage each month, it may be worth looking at a new phone plan. Otherwise, if you have never or only occasionally gone over your data limit, and you’re still able to use your phone for everything you want – including video streaming – switching to a more expensive plan with more data might not be the way to go.
Is a plan with data-free streaming worth it?
Everyone uses their phone differently. People with long commutes to and from work or school might tend to use more data on streaming video than those who have shorter commutes, or those who prefer to watch videos at home. When assessing whether a plan with data-free streaming is right for you, you’ll need to consider what your genuine needs are.
If you currently feel restricted with how you can use your data, routinely go over your plan allowance, or have to download your Netflix or Stan shows to watch on the go so you can save your data for other uses, it might well be worth considering switching plans. Whether this is a plan with a little or a lot more data, a plan with unlimited capped-speed data, or a plan with data-free streaming extras, it’s up to you, but you should consider how much mobile data you need before comparing plans. If you like the data-free sports streaming on offer from Optus, that could be worth looking into. If you use data for other video streaming, including YouTube, an ‘unlimited’ data plan or a plan with lots of data might be a better option.
It seems that rather than data-free streaming, we might see more ‘unlimited’ data plans in the future. Until that day, its worth looking around to see what plans are on offer from all telcos. While the big three might have those tempting entertainment extras, you could find better value for your needs in a plan from a smaller telco, especially if you want a cheap plan with plenty of data. So before you jump into a new plan, consider your needs, and compare phone plans to determine which plan will ultimately be the best for you.